New county ag agent looking forward to helping farmers

Winter kill, hay shortage could be most immediate concerns
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Leader photo by Tim Ryan Kimberly Kassube, Shawano County’s new agricultural extension educator, poses for a photo outside the Shawano County Courthouse, 311 N. Main St. in Shawano, where her office is located. Kassube started her new job in October and looks forward to assisting area farmers.

It has been a busy first winter on the job for Kimberly Kassube, Shawano County’s new agricultural extension educator.

One might think this time of year would be slow for anything related to agriculture, but, according to Kassube, the winter months are when her office is most likely to hear from farmers seeking help or asking questions.

“They’re not out in the field,” she said.

Most of the questions Kassube has been fielding has been about hay pricing and alternative forage.

“There is going to be a shortage of quality forage out there this year and I think there are some concerns about winter kill,” she said. “We had some ice sheeting in the beginning of the winter that might have suffocated off the alfalfa.”

How bad that could be won’t be known until well after the snow is melted away and even not probably not until May when the fields start to green-up.

“It might green-up or might be damaged and start to die out and you’ll start to see the spots in the field,” Kassube said.

Snow cover might have helped protect the fields from damage during the winter’s extreme cold snap, but earlier in the season might have been when the real problems took place.

“With all that freezing and thawing and ice sheeting happening in the beginning of winter, that might be a larger cause,” Kassube said.

Managing winter kill will be one of the topics that will be discussed next week as the UW-Madison Division of Extension (what used to be called UW-Extension) hosts a meeting for agribusiness professionals and agency staff.

The “Supporting Farmers During Challenging Times Event” will be held Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon at the Tundra Lodge in Green Bay.

Agriculture agents from eight counties, including Shawano, will be taking part.

Farmers are facing a host of challenges, not the least of which is low milk prices, Kassube said.

“That’s the big one,” she said. “With milk prices low, it’s not covering the cost of production.”

Also, Kassube said, “we’re constantly losing farms throughout the state and we’ve lost some here in Shawano County as well.”

There is some help the extension can provide to struggling farmers.

“The extension can help provide support in succession planning and maybe some of the management aspects,” Kassube said. “But every farm is different, so there’s not one answer to this problem.”

Kassube grew up in Wittenberg got involved in agriculture through 4H, ag classes and FFA in high school.

“I decided I wanted to pursue it as a career,” she said.

She went on to get Bachelor’s Degrees in dairy and animal science in 2014 at UW-Madison. While there she also worked at a dairy nutrition research lab.

She got a Master’s Degree in animal science from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville in 2016.

Since then she has worked as a dairy nutrition consultant in Marathon, Taylor, Clark and Lincoln counties.

“I enjoy working with farmers and trying to help them improve production, feed quality and stuff,” she said.

As a crops and soils agent, Kassube is hoping to focus on forage production and integrated pest management.

“Those will be my two big program areas,” she said.

Kassube started in October and was too late to plan the fall and winter extension programs, but she is planning on programs of her own for the spring and summer, including pasture evaluation, a grain production clinic, corn silage issues, and measuring the quality of forage and alfalfa stands.

She will also be supporting home gardeners in food production with the Wolf River Master Gardeners.

The extension is also seeking a grant to support agricultural programming efforts with the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans and Menominee Tribal Nation.

“I’m excited to be here,” Kassube said, and she invited anyone with questions or concerns to contact her office, at 715-526-6136, or stop in at the Shawano County Courthouse, 311 N. Main St. in Shawano.

“We’re here for everyone,” Kassube said.